Buying Guides

Best SUVs with Second-Row Captain's Chairs

Lose the middle seat to gain comfort and convenience

Jane Ulitskaya, Digital Content Specialist

Three-row SUVs provide numerous benefits for large families including space, convenience, and more versatility than minivans can offer. Many three-row SUVs allow you to choose between bench seats and captain's chairs for the second row. So, why go with captain's chairs? Although bench seats fit an extra passenger in the second row, the space is usually cramped and uncomfortable. Second-row bench seats also leave no pass-through space to the third row, making access more difficult. If you don't need an extra seat for passengers, we'd recommend going with the option of captain's chairs to optimize comfort. We selected the top 6 SUVs with second-row captain's chairs that accommodate a variety of families and lifestyles.

2020 Chevrolet Traverse

  • PROS: Attractive exterior sheetmetal, spacious passenger and cargo area, smooth and comfortable ride, efficient V6 engine.
  • CONS: Some cheap interior materials.

The 2020 Chevrolet Traverse is an excellent value for a large family. It is very spacious in all three rows for passengers, and the driver will enjoy the potent, 310-horsepower V6 engine for effortless acceleration. The Traverse also offers a good balance between ride comfort and handling. The second-row captain's chair configuration provides seating for 7 passengers and the Smart Slide second-row seats allow for painless access to the third row. Those occupying the second-row captain's chairs get 38.4 inches of legroom while the third-row passengers get 33.5 inches.

2020 Volkswagen Atlas

  • PROS: Massive passenger and cargo space, unique exterior styling, easy-to-use tech.
  • CONS: Feels underpowered at times, still a slave to dated VW interior design, high price tag.

Volkswagen offers a captain's chair option for the 2020 Atlas and checking that box results in seating for 6, increased comfort and third-row accessibility. In fact, comfort and class-leading cargo and passenger space are the SUV's best selling points. Plentiful legroom is available in the second row with 37.6 inches and the second row slides to let passengers easy access to the third row. There, even adult passengers can ride in comfort with 33.7 inches of legroom. In addition to space, the Atlas gives owners the driving experience of a much smaller vehicle with excellent shock absorption and a high level of steering precision and handling.

2020 Hyundai Palisade


for the luxury focused

  • PROS: Premium feel at a value price, luxurious interior, strong V6 engine, great third row power seats, ample passenger space.
  • CONS: Lackluster fuel efficiency, third row seats have a high floor and poor back support, pushbutton transmission shifting can be frustrating.

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is the best new three-row SUV on the market thanks to its smooth and refined driving manners that are rarely found in a large SUV. The Palisade masquerades as a luxury vehicle with an affordable price tag of $31,775 (starting MSRP). Not only will the driver enjoy the 2020 Palisade, but it will also please family members large and small with its premium interior and superb tech. The passenger space and comfort are enhanced by the optional captain's chairs configuration which seats 7. The lucky occupants of the second row get 42.4 inches of legroom and the easy-to-access third row gives passengers 31.4 inches of legroom.

2020 Honda Pilot

  • PROS: Spacious and comfortable interior, easy to drive, smooth ride.
  • CONS: Boring exterior styling despite the refresh, so-so infotainment, cabin is drab and dated.

It may not be at the cutting edge of style, but after a refresh last year, the 2020 Honda Pilot gets a touch more personality. While it's not the toughest SUV on the block (scroll down to the Dodge Durango), if you're looking for a functional and practical family vehicle, the Pilot aims to please. The optional second-row captain's chairs are comfortable and spacious with a generous 38.4 inches of legroom. The second-row seats tilt to make access to the third row which has 31.9 inches of legroom (sufficient to fit adults). Passengers can stash their belongings in one of the many storage spaces in the cabin or in the hidden compartment under the cargo floor.

2020 Dodge Durango

  • PROS: Athletic driving experience, powerful engines, aggressive muscle-car styling, comforable cabin.
  • CONS: Thirsty engine, chunky dashboard reduces open-air feeling, low reliabiltiy rankings.

The 2020 Dodge Durango may be the furthest thing from a minivan as far as 3-row SUVs go. It is sporty and fun to drive, has edgy styling, and plenty of room for a fun-loving family. With a maximum horsepower of 475 in the SRT trim, the Durango is a muscle car in SUV form. In addition to the powerful V8 engine options which provide the driving thrills, the Durango offers second-row captain's seats for a 6 passenger capacity. The second row gets 38.6 inches of legroom, while the rear row provides 31.5 inches of legroom so passengers can ride in comfort while the driver enjoys the Durango's sportscar-like performance.

2020 Acura MDX


for the driving enthusiast

  • PROS: Great driving dynamics, slick styling with the right amount of aggression, ample room in the first two rows.
  • CONS: Confusing twin infotainment screens, some delay in acceleration, third row is tight for adults.

An ideal blend of comfort, convenience, and performance help make the Acura MDX the best-selling premium 3-row crossover on the market. Offered with a captain's chair configuration that seats 6, the MDX gives second-row passengers a comfortable ride with a generous 38.5 inches of legroom. Unfortunately, the third row is tighter with 28.1 inches of legroom. While second-row passengers enjoy the comfortable ride, the driver can focus on the ample power from the MDX's 3.5-liter V6 without hearing "are we there yet?!" every 5 minutes.

Why get second-row captain's chairs in your SUV?

  • They're more comfortable for second-row passengers.
  • They can increase legroom for third-row passengers.
  • They provide easier third-row access.